Last year, Japan’s most enigmatic metal band, Sigh, now signed to the British Peaceville Records label, returned from a five-year silence. Its latest feat, ‘Heir To Despair’, was seen by many as the band’s return to the experimental form it had on the great 2012 released album, ‘In Somniphobia’. That album marked the band’s ultimate creative peak and was full of unorthodox song writing and the most unusual style shifts. The intervening album ‘Graveward’ (2015), while also quite avant-garde, sounded more aggressive and epic than Sigh had sounded in years. It was therefore a bit of a wait and see what the band would come up with next.
With Sigh, you never know where you stand, the only certainty you do have is that the band will surprise you. And they do so again with ‘Shiki’. Needless to say, the band continues to flirt with all kinds of avant-garde elements, for instance, in ‘Kuroi Kage’ you are almost lulled to sleep with sultry jazz passages, but the song also treated you to cutting and ferocious blast beats earlier on to end in an almost Doom Metal-like repetitive riff accompanied by indigenous percussion. Snarling vocals alternate with incantatory clean vocals. This nearly eight-minute opening track (not counting the 16-second intro) is a direct indication of what the album stands for: still as experimental, avant-garde and downright psychedelic as on the best Sigh albums of the recent past, but at the very same time Sigh sounds heavier and more vicious than it has done in many years. We are led past Middle Eastern melodies, grabbed by the throat by the vicious vocal violence, swept along by phenomenal guitar leads and, really just, fantastic musicianship to leave you in awe at the end of the album, which clocks just under the 45 minute mark. A truly spectacular ride.
Incidentally, the band is joined on this album by Kreator bassist Frédéric Leclercq and drummer Mike Heller of Fear Factory, Raven and Malignancy (what about that combination of bands?), so with this vast amount of creative experience, it’s no surprise that ‘Shiki’ comes off so well. As such, it is highly recommended for anyone who likes their metal to be a unconventional and is open to more than a handful of musical experiments. Should bands like (later) Master’s Hammer, (later) Dødheimsgard and Arcturus meet with your approval, then I would definitely not pass up ‘Shiki’.